15 September 2011 Can’t Live Without ‘Em: Florida Manatee Posted by: James Randolph | Leave a comment | Share: A weekly homage to endangered species, large and small They’re big, slow, and always hungry. But they’re also absolutely irresistible, and we can’t help but love them. People travel across the country and from all over the world to Florida in hopes of glimpsing the majestic manatee. These slow-moving marine mammals can weigh more than 1,200 pounds and grow to nearly 10 feet in length. They eat sea grass and other aquatic vegetation they find in the warm coastal waters. Manatees require warm water to survive which is why they congregate predominantly in Florida year-round, although they’ve been spotted in waters as far north as Massachusetts in recent years and in waters throughout eastern Texas. This can also be their downfall, however, since man-made sources of warm waters such as power plant discharges also attract manatees. Although they have no natural predators, these graceful giants have long had to fight for survival against threats like climate change and boat collisions. In 1967, the manatees were listed as an endangered species under a precursor to the Endangered Species Act, primarily as a result of habitat loss which remains a serious concern. Today experts estimate that there are about 5,000 manatees remaining in the United States. Manatee mother and calf swim side-by-side. Manatee money-tree Manatees are Florida’s official state marine mammal. Possibly as a gesture of gratitude, these massive mammals bring in millions of dollars in tourism revenue annually. Visitors flock to two places in particular to catch a glimpse–Blue Spring State Park and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where manatees are attracted to the warmer temperatures during winter months. Combined, the two parks draw nearly 400,000 visitors each year from outside their respective counties who spend in excess of $20 million. That revenue supports nearly 400 tourism-related jobs with a payroll of more than $5 million. Read more in Defenders’ Conservation Pays report. To learn more about manatees, check out Defenders’ profile or the USFWS’ fact sheet. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in A Shark Workshop As part of an international effort to cut down on the devastating impact of the fin trade on shark species, Defenders helped organize a shark identification workshop in Brazil,attended by officials from countries all over the continent. Washington Wolf Supporters Howl for Wolf Recovery & Oppose Stripping Federal Protections In advance of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to strip federal protection for most gray wolves in the contiguous 48 states, the Agency denied Washingtonians the opportunity to testify in opposition by refusing to hold a public hearing in the Pacific Northwest. This did not go over well in Washington! In fact, over 100 citizens decided to host their own hearing on Sunday December 15th to oppose stripping federal protections for gray wolves. Reaching out for wildlife in California The Lower Calaveras River, near Sacramento, is one of the most dramatically altered rivers in California, yet provides critical habitat to threatened fish and wildlife, including Fall Run Chinook Salmon and steelhead. Our California team works to teach the local community about the value of this river running through their neighborhood.